Spa 24-hour & Zandvoort 4-hour
ETC rounds 5 and 6 to Hezemans/Quester and BMW.
Toine Hezemans and Dieter Quester completed a brilliant double for the BMW works team of 3.0 CSLs, winning both the Spa 24 hr. race on July 21st-22nd and the Zandvoort 4 hr. race on August 12th. BMW thus take a 20 point lead from Ford in the European Touring Car Championship, with 110 points to 90, while Hezemans leads Brian Muir in the drivers' section of the Championship by 85 points to 65.
At Spa the opening stages had featured a fantastic fight between the works BMW CSLs of Hezemans/Quester, Chris Amon/Hans-Joachim Stuck and the Alpina CSLs of Brian Muir/Hans-Peter Joisten and Alain Peltier/Harald Menzel. The battle continued well into the night until terminated tragically when Joisten's leading CSL spun at Malmedy and was hit by the Autodelta Gp 1 Alfa Romeo GTV of Roger Dubos. Both drivers were killed instantly. Half-an-hour later, Massimo Larini's Autodelta Alfa Romeo GTAm jumped the Armco at Les Combes, Larini receiving critical injuries from which he has since died. Alpina subsequently withdrew the Peltier/Menzel car and Autodelta withdrew the rest of their team.
Jochen Mass/John Fitzpatrick and Hans Heyer/Helmuth Koinigg found the Works Capris outclassed by the be-winged BMW CSLs and by 3 am. on the Sunday morning were some 10 laps behind the Hezemans/Quester leading BMW. It was little consolation to them when the Stuck/Amon car retired with valve trouble. The final straw to Ford Cologne came early in the morning when the Heyer/Koinigg Capri retired with a mysterious cylinder head stud failure. Not long afterwards the Mass/Fitzpatrick Capri suffered the same problem but the pushrods, injection and plug were removed on one cylinder and the Capri continued as a V5 in second place.
Third overall by 9 am. on Sunday morning was the incredible Tricot/Haxhe Gp 1 Opel Commodore, with the Spaniard Barrios' Escort fourth, the latter's gallant efforts coming to nought an hour later when the starter motor fell apart.
The final results were pointedly remarkable for the fact that out of the first 10 cars seven were Gp 1, the only other Gp 2 car besides the winning BMW and second placed Capri being the Andersson/Kottulinsky Toyota Celica in ninth place. First Britons home were Jonathan Buncombe and Mike Crabtree at 11 in Terry Sanger's very sick Gp 2 Camaro.
The story was a very different one at Zandvoort where the tighter circuit put the Capris on much more of a par with the BMWs. The heavy CSLs were troubled by overheated left-hand front tyres on the abrasive new surface in the hot weather. So close were the CSLs and the Capris matched that the lead changed continuously for the first 30 laps between the Jochen Mass/Dieter Glemser Capri, the Hezemans/Quester BMW CSL, and the Stuck/Amon CSL. Mass had held the advantage for several laps when on the 30th lap Stuck tried to pass him under braking at the Tarzancurve, misjudged things and ploughed straight on. He lost almost a lap having the flatted tyres replaced.
A lap later Mass retired with a broken half-shaft, and the Schnitzer CSL of Henri Pescarolo and Harald Ertl took the lead, which it was to hold for another 90 laps. The second works Capri of John Fitzpatrick/Gerard Larrousse lay three laps down on the leaders, delayed when a plug electrode fell out. After one hour only Pescarolo, Hezemans and Brian Muir in the Alpina CSL shared with Hesketh March Formula One driver James Hunt, having his first Gp 2 race, were on the same lap. Stuck and Amon pulled back their deficit and challenged for the lead again, but retired after 2 hr. 20 min. with a broken gearbox.
At three hours Pescarolo/Ertl held a cornrnanding lead from Hezemans, Muir, Larrouse, Klaus Fritzinger/Han Akersloot (Capri RS), and Walter Brun/Cox Kocher (BMW-Alpina CSL). Sixth was the very fast Brian Hart 2-litre alloy-engined Escort RS of Hans Heyer/Manfred Mohr, which eventually finished sixth after a fine, reliable drive.
With only 35 min. to go, Pescarolo lost the lead to Hezemans when a front tyre blew. Later, when trying to make up his deficit, the gearbox had selector problems and caused Pescarolo to spin the Schnitzer CSL into the Armco at Gerlachbocht. Thus Hezemans sped to the flag unchallenged, with Muir/Hunt second one lap down, after nursing a very tired practice engine throughout the race (the race engine had blown a head gasket), and the remaining works Capri third, another bad day for Cologne. - C.R.